School Mental Health Report Cards – How Did Your State Do?

Report cards are now out on mental health in our schools. The Hopeful Futures Campaign has assembled a first-ever national report card that scores every state on policies that support school mental health, with recommendations for how to improve.  17 organizations joined together to form the Hopeful Futures Campaign. They believe that every child, in every school, should get the mental health services they need so they can thrive.

I encourage each of you to look to see how your state scored, and read the sections on ‘The Strategy’ and ‘The Solutions’. Under ‘The Solutions’, please look at the eight policy areas that contribute to a comprehensive school mental health system.

Even though all policy areas are extremely important, I want to call attention to Category 8 – Mental Health Education. Unfortunately, this has not been mentioned as part of our administration’s strategy to address our national mental health crisis. However, as a recently retired school counselor of thirty years, I see the need for mandates to be put in place to actually educate the students on mental health, including teaching about mental health conditions, from kindergarten through high school.

We mandate physical health through required PE and health classes in elementary school, continuing into high school. However, mental health is not treated with the same importance as physical health. As a result, many of our children and young adults are suffering. This must change. We must change from being ‘reactive’ to being ‘proactive’. Teach the children about mental health disorders so they can understand what they or a classmate may be going through.

How are children going to be able to recognize they may have a ‘medical’ condition that effects their emotions unless they are taught about these conditions? Without learning about what to look out for, many will continue to suffer in silence, thinking that they are abnormal or have a character flaw. This lack of education leads to shame and isolation. In turn, many do not reach out for help.

Mandates must be put into place if we truly want to effect change and help our children and young adults. This will not happen overnight, but it can be done. Again, we must teach the children.

Fortunately, some states are in the beginning stages of making changes. Please read about the following three states.

  • New York deserves continued praise for its widely lauded mental health education law, which requires that all schools’ health education programs include mental health.
  • Several states, including Virginia, have followed suit, recognizing the importance of intentionally integrating mental health into health education.
  • Florida’s statute requires mental health education only in middle and high school, but is commendable for its final rule, effective July 2021, that specifies a minimum of five hours annually of instruction on mental health, substance abuse and suicide prevention.

To see how your own state scored in the various areas, click the link “Home” below; then click onto your state. And please join the Hopeful Futures Campaign to advocate for increased support for mental health education in our schools!

In the News

Our CureBrainDisease Coalition is truly gaining ground. Several of our members were recently interviewed about our mental health moonshot initiative for The GreenvilleJournal – Greenville, SC. The article is only about a five minute read, and speaks straight to the heart of our mental health crisis which is now growing to epidemic proportions. Please take the time to read this important message.

Also, if you haven’t done so already, please sign and share our petition (below). Thank you all for helping to make a brighter future for generations to come!

Please sign and share our Moonshot for Mental Health Petition!

Genetic Testing in Neurodevelopmental Disorders

The following blog highlights the article, “Genetic Testing for Those with Neurodevelopmental Disorders”.  The reason I say ‘highlights’ is because the article contains a great deal of information that I won’t be addressing in this blog.  I would ask that you please read the article as it is extremely informative. 

The Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders, 5th Edition (DSM-5), refers to Neurodevelopmental disorders (NDD) as group of conditions that present during a child’s early developmental period and are characterized by developmental deficits that may create challenges in the child’s personal, social, academic, or occupational functioning.  With a combined prevalence of approximately 17% of children ages 3-17 years old in the United States, NDD are the most prevalent chronic medical conditions encountered in pediatric primary care. 

NDD include intellectual disabilities (ID), global developmental delays (GDD), communication disorders (language disorder, speech sound disorder, childhood onset fluency disorders, and social/pragmatic communication disorder), autism spectrum disorders (ASD), attention deficit/hyperactivity disorder (ADHD), specific learning disorders (involving reading, written expression, and/or mathematics), and motor disorders (developmental coordination disorder, stereotypic movement disorder, and tic disorders).

Other conditions, outside of the DSM-5, are also considered as neurodevelopmemtal disorders.  These conditions include cerebral palsy (CP) and epilepsy, and neuropsychiatric disorders where there is strong clinical and biological evidence of developmental origins, such as schizophrenia.

As I mentioned, NDD are the most prevalent conditions encountered in the pediatric setting.  In fact, these disorders are considered to be common, and a significant proportion can be identified by genetic testing. In the last two decades, rapid advances in the development of genetic testing have revolutionized our ability to make specific genetic diagnoses in patients presenting with identification of neurodevelopmental disorders. New genes are being implicated in neurodevelopment at a rapid pace.

So, what do family members want to know?  The answer is that in addition to wanting to know their child’s clinical diagnosis and prognosis, they want to know the cause of their child’s developmental disability. With the development of genetic testing in identifying genetic causes for NDD, physicians can provide information on causes to families, along with a more accurate prognosis for their patients.  This identification can also be used to find, treat and possibly prevent medical comorbidities. 

At this time, genetic testing is considered the standard of care for children and adolescents with Intellectual Disabilities, Global Developmental Delays, and/or Autism Spectrum Disorders, and the future of testing will almost certainly be broadened to include other neurodevelopmental disorders. (Standard of care refers to the attention and care a patient should reasonably be provided.)

It is important that physicians and other medical personnel who provide healthcare to children and adolescents with neurodevelopmental disorders, gain an understanding of these common tests and their role in providing the best medical care for patients.  It is also important for these clinicians to support and facilitate genetic etiologic evaluations (genetic testing showing cause) for these patients by ordering genetic testing or partnering with genetic providers. Article cited:

To follow up, we think the main point from this article is that conditions which were once believed not to be genetic and/or caused by biological factors are now considered to be diseases with well defined genetic factors. We need to promote science so we can someday understand the genetic and epigenetic causes of serious mental health conditions well beyond schizophrenia and better understand how NDD could be related to mental health conditions. Please support our petition for a Moonshot for Mental Health so that we may have the much needed funding to continue this type of life changing research!